'I was on my death bed' says Serena Williams after scare

Wimbledon champion Serena Williams is relishing her comeback at this week's AEGON International in Eastbourne after admitting she was at one point on her "death bed" during a difficult 12 months.

Williams has not played since winning her fourth crown at SW19 last year after badly cutting her foot while coming out of a German restaurant. The 29-year-old was then hospitalised with blood clots on her lung which she believes developed due to having to wear a cast for 20 weeks to protect her foot. "I was on my death bed at one point - quite literally. I've had a serious illness but at first I didn't appreciate that," she said ahead of her return match against Tsvetana Pironkova. "At first people said it would be fine, it would be all right but it turned out to be a lot more serious. If it had been left two days later it could have been career-ending - or even worse.

"They told me I had several blood clots in both lungs. A lot of people die from that.

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"It got to the stage where it felt like I could hardly breathe. Some days I didn't get out of bed at all. I just laid on a couch thinking why has this happened to me? The second surgery was tough, more mentally tough than a lot of things I've been through including my sister dying.

"It's why this is a comeback that's totally different from any other comeback. Because this has given me a whole new perspective on life and my career - and not taking anything for granted. I'm just taking one day at a time. I'm not preparing for today or for Wimbledon. I'm preparing for the rest of my career."

Her troubles started when she gashed her foot in Germany. She said: "To this day I don't really know the full details of what happened. I was with my nephew and my hitting partner and we were just leaving a restaurant. I was walking and just felt something. I kept walking and it was definitely glass there. There was a massive puddle of blood and I ended up fainting and needed stitches in both feet.

"I didn't know then but it was a torn ligament. I just know my toe was kind of hanging. They said it would be fine or that's what I thought but it ended up eventually not being fine."

Williams, who is now down to world No 25, returned to the practice court last month but concedes she has no idea how she will fare when she returns.

Sister Venus showed that lack of match practice needn't be a major obstacle. Venus won in her first-round match at Eastboourne on her return from a five-month lay-off, beating Germany's Andrea Petkovic 7-5 5-7 6-3.

Meanwhile, Scotland's Jamie Baker, forced to play Wimbledon qualifying for the first time, made a winning start with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over English teenager George Morgan at Roehampton yesterday.